PHILADELPHIA, Nov. 15, 2004 — Representatives from the School District of Philadelphia and Microsoft Corp. today broke ground on the School of the Future and cracked open a new era for the marriage of technology and education. The new high school will embody innovation, technology, and research and development throughout the entire facility. The School of the Future, which is expected to open in 2006, will be the first school of its kind designed to be a sustainable and replicable model for improved instructional development through the use of technology. The estimated $50 million in total project costs is being funded by the District’s capital program and supported with human resources and technical assistance through Microsoft’s Partners in Learning (PiL) initiative.
“To ensure that our students have every opportunity to embrace the potential in their future, we need to approach education with a community effort rooted in business practices,” said Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell. “With the support and help of Microsoft, the Philadelphia School of the Future will provide a unique learning experience for many students and an example for other schools to learn and adopt from.”
To achieve the primary goal of a continual, relevant and adaptive learning community, the project will implement research-based best practices for innovative approaches in all aspects of the educational process. During the course of the past year, a Curriculum Working Committee, which comprises members of the District, Microsoft representatives, members of the local community and education experts from around the world, has identified areas of innovation for almost all of the school’s administrative, architectural and learning aspects.
“Strengthening public education is a prime ingredient in our quest to grow the city’s economy and enhance the quality of life for our citizens,” said Philadelphia Mayor John F. Street. “This project will be a national example of what can be accomplished when the community, school district and private sector combine efforts for the city’s overall good.”
The public high school will house approximately 750 students who will encounter such features as one-on-one computing in a wireless environment, smart cards they can use for everything from the cafeteria to the interactive learning center, a home and school broadband connection, and a digital format for all paperwork and processes. Teachers and administrators will have instant access to student assessment progress through a digital dashboard, while daily functions will become more cost-efficient through Web-based procurement and online human resources tools for time reporting and payroll management. However, at the root of the school’s mission is the desire to embed research and development methods into the daily curriculum, so that teachers and students are constantly investigating and discovering new instructional practices that will improve student achievement.
“Microsoft’s Partners in Learning was created to help realize the promise of long-term solutions for education,” said Linda Zecher, Vice President of the U.S. Public Sector Group at Microsoft. “Governor Rendell, Mayor Street, School District CEO Paul Vallas and the community of Philadelphia are proving that we can deliver on this promise within the constraints of an urban school district.”
In addition to the technology features, the architectural structure of the school will support its mission of creating a better learning environment. The Performance Center will utilize moveable seating so auditorium-type settings can be easily converted hydraulically to settings suitable for small work groups. Classrooms will be flexible, with minimal fixed assets and audio enhancement systems.
“This relationship between Microsoft and the School District of Philadelphia will not just change education in Philadelphia, but it will change the way that we educate tomorrow’s leaders throughout the nation,” said James Nevels, Chairman of the School Reform Commission. “Education is the great equalizer, because knowledge is truly power, and when it is delivered to students through technology-rich environments their potential is unlimited.”
As part of the commitment to develop a high-performance yet sustainable learning environment, the building itself is being developed in accordance with the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System. The school will be eco-friendly, utilizing natural lighting, water conservation and recycling, and cabinets made from the few trees that had to be removed from the site. Blending the learning and architectural design elements, photoelectric glass will not only generate a portion of the building’s power supply but also will transmit real-time data for students so they can see how much energy is being generated and the positive impact on the environment.
“By using the tools of today to improve our education system we can better prepare our students for tomorrow,” said Paul Vallas, CEO of the School District of Philadelphia. “The true integration of technology and training that will take place here in Philadelphia will create the connections and partnerships necessary to develop the 21st-century skills of our students.”
To ensure that schools across the nation and around the world can adopt all or some of the methods and practices from this project, PiL is documenting the process and creating publicly available resources such as discovery briefs, training materials and floor plans. More information can be found at http://www.microsoft.com/education/schooloffuture.aspx .
About the School District of Philadelphia
The School District of Philadelphia is the nation’s seventh largest, with approximately 200,000 students in grades K through 12 in more than 260 schools. The School of the Future is one of 10 new, public high schools that the District plans to build as part of its $1.5 billion Capital Plan. This school exemplifies the goals of the District’s Secondary Education Movement: its sweeping education reform plan for the city’s public high schools announced in February 2003. The plan calls for more choices in smaller high schools, academic support programs for struggling students and exemplary programs in every neighborhood secondary school.
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